If prison reformed criminals, illegal earnings once people were released ought to have gone down. But if prison was a "finishing school" for criminals, illegal earnings after serving time should have increased.
"Spending time in prison leads to increased criminal earnings," Hutcherson says. "On average, a person can make roughly $11,000 more [illegally] from spending time in prison versus a person who does not spend time in prison."
As to the process by which this happens, he says, "You come in [to prison]. You're 16, 17, 18 years old. You're looking around and you're thinking, 'Listen, I can learn from these seasoned veterans.' And that's exactly what you do. ... Basically, you are spending a lot of time around other criminals, seasoned veterans who know the lay of the land, and they can teach you the mechanisms — ways to get away with crime."
On February 1st, 2013, NPR published a fascinating article about how prison, rather than reform, may be responsible for teaching some to become better criminals.
The study, "Crime Pays: The Connection Between Time in Prison and Future Criminal Earnings" looks at how spending significant time incarcerated impacts the ability to obtain legitimate income and the role of prison on future opportunities and earning potential. A discussion with the author is transcribed and posted on the NPR website, available here.
About the Author
Amy K. Guerra is a criminal defense attorney in Fresno, CA. In addition to her career in criminal defense, she's worked as a freelance writer and within the non-profit sector. She continues to be active in the community and enjoys writing about issues in criminal law relative to their community impact.